PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

When Should I Call in Sick?

Posted on Dec 27, 2012

Woman sick at work

You’re coughing and sneezing up a storm, and your red nose is making you look like Rudolph. But there’s that deadline at work…should you try and tough it out, or stay home and get some rest? Sounds familiar? During the season for colds, coughs and the flu, many of us face this dilemma.

Missing work or school can mean falling behind on your workload or studies, but dragging yourself in while ill may not only prolong an illness, but also mean you are probably going to share your germs with your colleagues or peers.

Your employer may even prefer you to stay home. According to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, more than two-thirds of all health-related productivity losses are the result of sick employees who show up and perform poorly – not due to those who miss work.

As a rule, stay home if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • A fever (100 F or higher)
  • Frequent coughing and/or sneezing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Taking medication that may make you dizzy, lightheaded or unable to concentrate is another reason to rest at home. You can return to work or school when you no longer have any of the above mentioned symptoms.

While you are sick there are several precautions you can take to help keep from spreading illness to others:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with a hand sanitizer – and don’t touch your face!
  • Always sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve
  • Keep several feet distance from others (Germs are spread through respiratory droplets from your nose and mouth. During normal conversation, droplets may travel one to two feet but a cough or sneeze can propel them between six to eight feet!)

I don’t want to miss my work out!

Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a common cold. But don’t exercise if you have a fever and are experiencing fatigue or widespread muscle aches. If you decide to go ahead, reduce the intensity and length of your workout. Exercising at your normal intensity when you have more than a simple cold puts you at risk for a more serious illness.

Let your body be your guide. If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a break. Scaling back or taking a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better.

Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.

Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.

This post was contributed by Urgent Care physician Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.